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Columbia Film Student Wins Coca-Cola Filmmaking Competition: "Movie (Theater) Hero" to Show on 19,000 Screens

By Kristin Sterling

The team films "Movie (Theater) Hero" at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem.
Photo by Lyuba Bakalova

Second-year film student David Pastor-Vallejo won the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Competition for his 50-second short film, "Movie (Theater) Hero," which he wrote and directed. Pastor-Vallejo's film will be shown as part of the pre-feature entertainment on 19,000 movie screens throughout the United States this fall, and he received a $10,000 prize.

The competition required entries to be based on the movie-going experience. "Movie (Theater) Hero" is an overly-dramatic spoof of big Hollywood movies, featuring a ticket-taker, a pretty girl and her date, "the jock," and an action sequence in which the ticket-taker makes an heroic attempt to save the girl from being squirted with a ketchup-filled hot dog.

What inspired Pasor-Vallejo to write the script for the winning short? "I thought it would be cool if a theater worker became a movie hero, himself, for one day," he says.

In the first phase of the competition, Pastor-Vallejo submitted the script, storyboard and a rough budget. From the nearly 200 entries, 10 finalists were chosen, including Pastor-Vallejo and Beatrice Kobow, a third year Columbia film student. The finalists received a $5,000 shooting budget, and it was off to the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem for Pastor-Vallejo and producers and classmates Kerry Shields and Jim Pellegrinelli.

"It was a whirlwind process," says Shields. "We submitted the script and a couple weeks later found out we were finalists." The team had only three weeks, during final exams, to complete pre-production and production. "It was very hard to get it all done," she says.

While finalists had to shoot their film in a Coca-Cola theater, the competition rules did not require a reference to Coke products.

"We didn't include any reference to Coke because we didn't conceive the project as a commercial, but as a film that was telling a story independently of the fact that this was the Coke competition," says Pastor-Vallejo. "The panel of judges is formed by renowned professionals of the film industry independent from Coca-Cola."

Not only was it a whirlwind process to get the film ready, since Pastor-Vallejo received the phone call notifying him of the selection, it has been a busy couple weeks. First, he went to Atlanta to add a 10-second introduction, presenting the film; then he flew to ShoWest in Las Vegas for the theater exhibitor's major convention, which attracts studio executives, actors, directors and producers. The award was formally announced at a convention ceremony.

"Disbelief" sums up Pastor-Vallejo's reaction upon receiving news of his win. "I couldn't believe it," he says. "I'll finally believe it myself when I see it on the big screen."

The three are all working on their respective scripts for their thesis and non-thesis films that are requirements of Columbia's graduate film program. The $10,000 prize will likely be applied to the cost of these films.

"The Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker's Award gives film students a bridge between the classroom and the working world of filmmaking," said Kathleen Ciaramello, vice president, Entertainment partners and strategic alliances, The Coca-Cola Company. "Coca-Cola is honored to provide the outlet for unknown filmmakers to gain exposure for their work in front of influential entertainment executives and the public at large."

The Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmakers Award is part of Coca-Cola's pre-feature entertainment. The program helps students gain real-world experience and exposure to launch their careers.

Published: Mar 28, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002


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